Fashion · Whimsy

Party Dress: Homage to Bauhaus

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Starting Point

Staatliches Bauhaus, commonly known simply as Bauhaus, was a German art school operational from 1919 to 1933 that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicised and taught. Wikipedia

I recently attended the 2018 DesignXri Designer’s Ball. The theme was Bauhaus Bash in honor of the Bauhaus design movement’s 100th anniversary. Predictably, if you give talented, creative people a spark of inspiration, you get remarkable results. I knew I would have to come up with something good!

To achieve this look, I went shopping in my closet. The dress was just a simple black knit dress that has been hanging around waiting for warmer weather. When you look at Bauhaus designs, you see a lot of simple shapes, primary colors, high contrast and humor. That inspired me to make a pattern of bold stripes and circles. Easiest (and most reversible) way – duct tape. I applied the stripes just by eye. The circles are made by layering strips of tape on my cutting mat and using a utility knife to cut out the circular shapes.

Bauhaus13The element that really makes the outfit is the “sleeves.” The sleeve apparatus is made from two inexpensive plastic IKEA placemats, some ribbon, some cable ties, and one strategically placed safety pin.

Add some slicked-down hair, red lipstick and a sense of adventure and the outfit is done!

The whole thing took about 4 hours to put together – or 8 if you count all of the time I spent browsing the internet.

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I really can’t say enough about this great event. For some great photos of how other people interpreted the theme, check out JTJ Photography. For more information on DesignXri, check out their website:http://www.designxri.com

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Fashion

Black and White Tulip Tee

I have an easy one for today. I was in the mood to make casual tops, so I pulled out a pattern I have been wanting to try for a while: McCall’s M7247. I bought the pattern because I really liked the views with overlapped curved edges. It seemed like it would have interesting possibilities for color blocking.

I also had some very nice knits in my collection that I purchased with the hopes of using them together. Fabric 1 was a rayon/spandex blend in black. Fabric 2 was a horizontal black and white stripe. I had bought both fabrics from Fabric Mart Fabrics online thinking that they were the same material in different colors. They weren’t. That’s one of the pitfalls of shopping for fabric online. Don’t make assumptions. If you have doubts, ask!

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One of these knits is not like the other. Opacity issue led to Choice No. 1 with black on top.

The stripe is lightweight enough that dark colors show through. The black is tightly woven and has good stretch and recovery. Looking at the pattern, it seemed like it would still be fine to combine them, as long as the black was always on top of the white, not vice versa.

I took the pieces for View C and made my own variation. My top has long sleeves and uses only two colors.

Construction was really easy. Ironing the curved hem was the only part that I wished would end before it was over. But it’s a wide curve and really not difficult.

I considered a few different embellishments. I decided against a little pocket because I couldn’t find a shape that really worked with the big sweeping curves. Instead I made a cover button with the stripe fabric. Putting the button on the shoulder of the top flap just seemed to fit. Also, it gave me a way to see the stripes on top of solid black without the black showing through.

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Pocket? Button? Both? None?

This is the first time I have made a cover button. If I had known it was so easy, I would have done it sooner! I used Dritz 7/8 inch “half-ball” cover button forms which just snap together. No special tools needed.

Back opening in a RTW top (Amazon)

Overall, I really like how it turned out. The one issue is that the bottom flap can easily show bare skin depending on how high the waistband is on what you are wearing underneath. My plan is to wear this with yoga pants in the winter and a high-waisted long knit skirt in the summer. The jeans I am wearing in the pictures looked fine for a while, but as the waist loosened up, my skin started to pop out. Some people have lengthened the top to combat this. I suspect that this issue is the reason that I have only seen this type of style in stores with the opening in the back.

The pattern is staying in the keep pile nonetheless. I think it would be really cute sleeveless or short-sleeved for warm weather. I might try eliminating the hemmed edge and do a bias facing instead.

Coming soon: more sweater knits and Marfy blouse toile.

Fashion

Lazy Winter 2: Cowl-neck Pullover

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My first version of V9055

I wanted to do another easy project for the top to my lazy winter outfit. I really enjoyed making the Burgundy Cowl-Neck Tunic (Vogue V9055 View C), and I wear it all the time. What could be easier than making a pattern I have already tried and know to work?

Yet again, I have fabric that I bought without a plan. This time the fabric was from a mystery box of knits from Sincerely Rylee. It was full of all kinds of goodies, but as soon as I took the thin, drapey hacci knit out of the box I knew it was meant to be my second cowl-neck.

It was obvious after test-sewing a swatch that the new fabric would be tricky to sew. The knit had a much lighter, more open weave than the one I used before. I couldn’t seem to get either the serger or the regular sewing machine to to grab on to make a stitch.

At first the two fabrics seem very similar.

 

Looking closely, you can see that the second fabric has thinner yarn and larger stitches.

What ended up working was pinning strips of water-soluble stabilizer under all of the seams before sewing. I lightened the presser-foot pressure a little bit and that did the trick. The knit was so floppy that I took extra precautions around the neckline as well. Instead of just stay-stitching, I stitched stay-tape around the entire opening.

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Note to self: look for a good fusible or sticky back dissolvable alternative. That pinning took a while!

I noticed that the zig-zag stitch I used to sew my label on was just about invisible from the outside. So I made it easy on myself and did the hems with a simple zig-zag on my regular machine.

Adding all of that stabilizer meant that I had to re-wash everything before I could wear it. But it worked. All of the stabilizer just disappeared!

The finished top is just as comfortable and flattering as the first one I made. I think that this one might get a little more use because the lighter weight will be comfortable in Spring and Fall as well.

Here’s my final lazy-day look. Now, excuse me while I take a snooze.

 

Fashion · Vintage

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 3: Button Up!

pinstripe31My fear of buttonholes has been holding me back, but I finally worked through it and finished! I don’t suffer from Koumpounophobia, but I was perversely amused to learn that fear of buttons is a thing. Apparently, Steve Jobs had it. My reluctance had more to do with a long history of messing up sewing projects on the very last step.

I chose simple dark brown buttons and brown all-purpose thread. Before starting, I needed to do a little trial and error. I haven’t used my machine to sew buttonholes in years, and I never did it often enough for it to become automatic. Rather than ruin my work, I set up a trial swatch to match the fabric and interfacing in the garment. Boy, was I glad I did!

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My “Easy to Sew” pattern gave these instructions:

Transfer buttonhole markings to garment.

Make buttonholes at markings.

So….  that helped a lot.

Next step – read my sewing machine‘s manual. The machine’s instructions were also basic, but at least gave me enough to start experimenting.

I made a swatch with the same interfacing, lining and pinstripe fabric that I would be sewing.

After much experimentation, I was finally able to consistently stitch the buttonhole I wanted. I actually had to make a second test swatch because I ran out of room on the first one.

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Here’s a full list of adjustments and additions I used.

  1. Place tear-away stabilizer under the buttonhole area.
  2. Use a walking foot.
  3. Set the stitch width to the maximum (in my case, 5mm).
  4. Run the bobbin thread through the eye of the bobbin case’s hook. This increases the tension on the bobbin thread.
  5. Increase the stitch density by adjusting the machine’s balance.
  6. Increase the presser foot pressure.
  7. Mark the vertical boundary of the buttonholes with two strips of blue tape.
  8. Insert a strip of wash-away stabilizer between the lines of tape. Use wash-away marker on the stabilizer to mark the buttonhole placement. Bonus – the lines are highly visible against the bright white wash-away.
  9. I still had problems with the long side of the buttonhole rectangle staying straight. Solution: set up the seam guide and use more blue tape to give it a “track” to follow.
  10. Make several buttonholes on the test swatch. I did not work with the actual vest until I could get three in a row exactly right.
  11. Open the holes in the test swatch sample and make sure the button fits. I used a very sharp seam ripper to cut the slots.
  12. Apply Fray Check to the buttonhole stitching.
  13. Before cutting the holes open, remove the stabilizer and place pins just inside the holes’ bartacks. The pins prevent over-cutting.

I checked and double checked my markings. Yes, I psyched myself out a little. One more triple check and I was ready to go.

Overkill? Maybe. You could make a case. But it worked!

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Why yes, those stripes do line up! So kind of you to notice.

I decided to hand-sew the buttons rather than machine-sew. The reason is that I wanted to make sure they were not attached too tightly. A too-tight button can pull through the fabric or distort the nice flat plane of the button placket.

I can’t believe it, but it’s really done!

I am so pleased with the finished outfit.

Do you have any tips for making buttonholes? Write a comment below – I would love to hear them.

In case you missed it, here is the rest of the series.

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 1: the Pants

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 2: the Vest

I have lots of great things planned for 2018. I can’t wait to share them with you!

Fashion

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 2: the Vest

I haven’t actually owned a vest since the 1980’s. Looking back, that vest probably was not the best in the world. But I loved it. It was a thin, shiny black brocade with pearl buttons, no lining, and made me feel stylish and cool.

I don’t think I’m trying to relive my youth, but if I could restore some of that good feeling by making a new contemporary version, why not?

Maybe I had that in mind when I bought Simplicity 4079. It seems to have been printed in 2006 and is now out of print. However, vests are a classic wardrobe builder, so there is always something similar on the market.

Some promising looking substitutes:

Vests are also a staple in the steampunk and Victorian costume worlds, so that could be another source. Look for “waistcoats” as well as vests in your search.

All of the versions in my pattern are variations on the same lined, princess-seamed bodice. I went with the most classic. View A has four buttons, a V-neckline and comes to points in front.

The instructions were clearly written, which really helped me get through the relatively complex construction. But why is this pattern labelled “Easy-To-Sew?” I think anything with buttonholes and lining should really go into a different category. If I was a beginner and picked this up, I think I might have given up in frustration!

It would be easy enough to eliminate the false front pockets, but I think they really give the vest the menswear vibe I was going for.

Here’s a little slideshow of the pocket flaps coming together:

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Straps assembled and ready to sew

The pattern instructions did not specify whether the outside back and ties should be cut from the main fabric or the lining. I went with my gut and did the back with lining fabric and the ties in the brown stripe. As I noted before, the poly satin lining was tricky to press and really wanted to fray. I took my time with it, used a walking foot for traction and tried to handle it as little as possible. I used a press cloth and lots of steam when pressing was needed. It worked out fine and in the end, I am happy I chose the lining I did. Once enclosed in the garment, fraying is no longer an issue. I made extra sure by trimming off the excess with pinking shears. The heavier weight should pay dividends in extra durability (and of course, appearance). I went with a gold color buckle to secure the ties. The Dritz vest buckle comes in either a silver or gold tone. It’s fine, but I wish there were more options on the market. So far, the Dritz is the only one I could find.

There is surprisingly little interfacing in the vest. It only calls for one small piece under each placket. I guess the seams provide enough shaping on their own, because it seems to stay sharp even after a lot of handling. I used a fusible lightweight non-woven.

Is it just me, or is the process of turning the lining kind of like magic? The garment goes from a project to a real article of clothing in the blink of an eye. The vest was particularly satisfying in this regard, since the inside looks so different from the outside. I’m pretty sure turning linings is the closest I will ever get to making origami.

Putting it together:

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I wanted to wrap up this post with a finished vest, but unfortunately, I forgot to buy buttons. So, I’m hitting pause while I get the last bits together. I’ll wrap up soon with Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 3: Button Up!.

Click here if you haven’t yet read Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 1: the Pants.

 

Fashion · Vintage

Pinstripe Pantsuit Part 1: the Pants

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Fabric swatch close-up: Brown Pinstripe Polyester

Last month, I made these awesome high-waist pants. In the process, I made a good copy of the pattern including all of my personal alterations. I have been looking forward to using it again ever since.

With that in mind, I took a look through my fabric stash and drew out this pretty pinstripe polyester. The plain chocolate brown is brightened up by alternating pinstripes of gold and bronze. It seems to have a little spandex as well. I had always intended this fabric to be used for pants, and with fall finally beginning, the timing seemed right.

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Wrong side of pant facing using both knit and non-woven interfacing due to poor planning. I think it will work…

I’m not sure where the fabric came from. It was probably a remnant or some kind of irresistible bargain. That would certainly explain why, after pre-washing, I found dozens of flaws. I had five yards to work with (also a good sign it was an irresistible bargain), so there was still plenty even when I avoided the snags and pulls.

Before jumping in, I thought through some style possibilities. While I love the high-waist look, I know that there are some situations where the style would make me feel out of place. Because they fit so well (that is, comfy!), I can see using them as the base for casual looks with fitted pullover tops. But what really appealed to me was the idea of wearing it with a matching vest. Something about a feminine version of menswear basics always seems to look so chic. Making a vest is something I have never done, so it would also be an interesting challenge.

But first the pants. I am once again making view E from Butterick 5859. Because I took the extra time with the first pair, these went together quickly. That’s not to say that I didn’t manage to sew not just one, but two seams on the wrong side. That happened. But the seam ripper and a good night’s sleep took care of the problem.

I have to say, it felt really great to put on my new pants and have them fit on the very first try!

In the meantime, I also cut out the pieces for the vest (Out of Print Simplicity 4079 View A). I found that I had a lot of lining left over when I was done, so I decided to make it into bias tape. I thought it would be nice to bind the waistband facing with it. The lining fabric from Mood is a polyester satin, which is heavy enough for a jacket or coat lining. I really love the way the bound facing turned out, but I am not sure if I would try to make bias tape with the same kind of fabric again. The material did not want to take a crease, so it was really slow going. Still, I have at least 2 1/2 yards left, so I don’t think I’ll need to make any more.

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Right side of facing
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Inside pants (zipper is in back)
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Lots of binding left over

And here are the finished pants:

Next in this series, follow along as I tackle my first vest!

Fashion · Useful Thing

A Minimalist Bathrobe Part 1: Making Plaid Work

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Step one: make a plan

Now that I have a bathing suit that I don’t mind wearing to the gym, I turned my thoughts to making swimming at the gym easier.  When I do a swim, I have to carry a bag with a minimum of a towel, swimwear, shower shoes, bathing cap and toiletries. Ideally, I would have a bathrobe to come and go from the dressing area to the showers.  I never bring one, though, because the ones I have take up too much room in the bag.

Somewhere in my past, I picked up a few yards of soft double-faced cotton.  One side is plaid, the other stripe.  I realized that reversible fabrics don’t necessarily need facings or hemmed edges.  I could use bias tape or a densely stitched overcast to neaten the edges.

I took a pattern for a short, shawl collared robe I have already made and made some modifications. I eliminated the seam allowances and hem length on all of the outer edges.  The original sleeves were slightly puffed 3/4 length, which wasn’t what I wanted. I measured the front and back of the arm opening at the seamline and wrote the numbers on my pattern. Then I looked for a simple, full-length sleeve with the same measurements.  Luckily, the first one I tried was a very close match.  The belt didn’t need a pattern, since it was just a long rectangle.  Although it added a little extra bulk, I thought it was worth it to add patch pockets, a loop at the back of the neck, and belt carriers.

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Fabric pinned to itself and taped to mat. Pattern pieces aligned to match plaid at seams. Plaid sorted!

I knew if I wanted the finished product to look good, I would have to be careful about placing my pattern pieces. There are a few things I do that make this process much easier. Before even starting, I try to choose a symmetric plaid. I think about how I want the plaid to be arranged on the garment, then make the foldline on the stripe I want to run down the center back. I lay out the doubled fabric on a large, gridded cutting mat. If the fabric is slippery or hard to align, I use blue painter’s tape to keep it aligned to the grid.  To make sure the upper and lower edges stay aligned, I pin the bottom and top together on a prominent stripe every few inches or so. It probably goes without saying that I have pre-washed and ironed first. I carefully examine the plaid and make sure the stripes align to the cutting mat’s grid in several places.  They almost never do at first, but a little patience smoothing things out always pays off.  Then I arrange the pattern pieces so they line up on the sides. Commercial patterns almost always mark the waist, so that’s a convenient place to check alignment.  Otherwise, you can use notches to match a horizontal stripe. I usually start with any piece I want to go on the foldine.

After all of that, I cut the front and back. I decided where I wanted the patch pockets to go and cut squares in the right size, again being careful to match the plaid.

In the next post, I will be trying out different types of edge and seam finishes.  See you there!